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Happy Thesaurus Day!

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Forget weight loss and penny-pinching, make a resolution to keep this year a little more unconventional. What better way to start than with a few offbeat holidays and anniversaries you can easily observe?

1. January 1: First Foot Day

A Scottish New Year tradition, the first person to step into someone’s home is called the “first-footer” and is thought to represent good fortune entering the household—in the form of gifts including coal, whiskey, cash, and/or cheese and bread. Sorry ladies and blond men—in order to be considered lucky the first-footer should always be a dark-haired man.

2. January 1: 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

On this date in 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed this famous document proclaiming to the Executive Branch of government that all enslaved in Confederate territory were now free.

3. January 3: Fruitcake Toss Day

Although it may sound like a culinary Olympic event, Fruitcake Toss Day just marks the time when it is finally socially acceptable to trash all of the holiday fruitcakes you received. If you choose to turn the event into a throwing contest, make sure to have paper towels handy.

4. January 4: National Trivia Day

Here’s how we celebrated last year: 119 Amazing Facts for National Trivia Day.

5. January 4: World Braille Day


The birthday of Frenchman William Louis Braille, after whom this tactile code is named, doubles as a celebration of his groundbreaking system which has provided greater equal opportunities for the visually impaired worldwide since its invention in 1824.

6. January 7: 225th Anniversary of the First U.S. Presidential Election


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In 1788, new nation and future world power the United States of America kicked off its very first Presidential election (which ended in January 1789). As a surprise to no one, except perhaps opponents John Adams and John Jay, George Washington took the race in a landslide.

7. January 8: Bubble Bath Day

If ever there were a day to relax in a bath full of aerated water or foam, today is the one. Once a thing of luxury, the effervescent bath became a kid-friendly—and more affordable—treat in the mid-20th century thanks to companies like Mr. Bubbles.

8. January 10: League of Nations Day


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The rather ill-fated predecessor to the United Nations, the international peacekeeping organization League of Nations formally came to be on this date in 1920. Though the vocal support of President Woodrow Wilson certainly helped its inception, the League quickly fell into disarray, leaving it virtually powerless to prevent World War II. In 1946, Woodrow Wilson’s dream was officially dissolved.

9. January 10: 150th Anniversary of the Underground Railway


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The London Underground, a.k.a. “the Tube,” a.k.a. the transit system formerly known as the Metropolitan Railway, opened its doors in 1863, making it the first underground railway—or subway—in the world.

10. January 17: Kid Inventors Day


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The Kid Inventors Day website attributes television, water skis, earmuffs and the Popsicle to the minds of brilliant minors. Technically, the man who invented the first working television, Philo Farnsworth, applied for the patent at age 21 in 1927, but he showed an early design for his TV to his teacher at age 14. The purpose of Kid Inventors Day is to celebrate and encourage the ingenuity of children—so the Farnsworth blueprint counts!

11. January 18: Thesaurus Day

On this day in 1779, British lexicographer Peter Mark Roget was born. He is most famous for publishing The Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (aka “Roget’s Thesaurus”) in 1852. This holiday is a day to honor, celebrate, extol, laud, praise, revere, or salute his contributions.

12. January 22: National Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day

If animals could talk, what would they say? We may never know the real answer, but January 22nd is a day to remember the thoughts and feelings of your domestic feline. Don’t worry if cat whispering isn’t your forte. Cat-oriented websites like Cat Channel offer some great icebreakers to get the conversation started. For example, “Are hairballs a common malady? What can my human do to prevent them?”

13. January 23: 56th Anniversary of the Frisbee


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After fighting in World War II, American inventor Walter Frederick Morrison returned to the States and designed what he thought would be the world’s first flying disc. After a few iterations over the course of nearly a decade, he came up with his design for the “Pluto Platter.” On this date in 1957, he sold his rights to this design to the Wham-O toy company. Later that year, Wham-O decided to rename the toy “Frisbee,” a term that came from a Connecticut pie company named Frisbie, whose empty pie tins had become ad-hoc toys.

Wham-O owns the trademark to the term “Frisbee,” so any flying disc from any other manufacturer is technically not a Frisbee.

14. January 24: Beer Can Appreciation Day


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Seventy-eight years ago to the day, the first beer was sold in cans. Since then, the beer can has become a barbecue staple, a collector’s item, and a maligned receptacle for some beer snobs. Today, pause before chugging, shotgunning, or crushing, and take a moment to reflect on what your beer can means to you.

15. January 28: National Kazoo Day

Founded by Chaplin Willard Rahn of the Joyful Kazoo Band, National Kazoo Day celebrates 162 years of this plastic or metal instrument. The organization behind the holiday, Kazoo America, hopes to one day make the kazoo “America’s official musical instrument.” They ask that you please remember the kazoo is definitely not related to the Vuvuzela.

16. January 29: Thomas Paine Day


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Thomas Paine, who was born 276 years ago on this date, became a highly influential figure preceding the American Revolution with the publishing of his Common Sense pamphlets in the colonies. After publishing another series called The American Crisis, and a little war known as the American Revolution, Paine actually returned to live in London. His revolutionary spirit could not be quelled though, and he got back into the action, this time in France. After ruffling some feathers and facing possible execution—pardon our sweeping generalization of history here—Paine returned to the United States to live out his final days.

While we don’t recommend a complete governmental overthrow, today why not honor the spirit of Paine by starting a tiny revolution of your own?

17. January 30: FDR’s 131st Birthday


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Credited by many for pulling the United States out of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt left an indelible impression on American history. He also holds the distinction of being the only American President ever to be elected four times. So celebrate!

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Everything You Need to Know About Record Store Day
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The unlikely resurgence of vinyl as an alternative to digital music formats is made up of more than just a small subculture of purists. Today, more than 1400 independent record stores deal in both vintage and current releases. Those store owners and community supporters created Record Store Day in 2007 as a way of celebrating the grassroots movement that’s allowed a once-dying medium to thrive.

To commemorate this year’s Record Store Day on Saturday, April 21, a number of stores (a searchable list can be found here) will be offering promotional items, live music, signings, and more. While events vary widely by store, a number of artists will be issuing exclusive LPs that will be distributed around the country.

For Grateful Dead fans, a live recording of a February 27, 1969 show at Fillmore West in San Francisco will be released and limited to 6700 copies; Arcade Fire’s 2003 EP album will see a vinyl release for the first time, limited to 3000 copies; "Roxanne," the Police single celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will see a 7-inch single release with the original jacket art.

The day also promises to be a big one for David Bowie fans. A special white vinyl version of 1977’s Bowie Now will be on shelves, along with Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78), a previously-unreleased, three-record set. Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa, Neil Young, and dozens of other artists will also be contributing releases.

No store is likely to carry everything you might want, so before making the stop, it might be best to call ahead and then plan on getting there early. If you’re one of the unlucky vinyl supporters without a brick and mortar store nearby, you can check out Discogs.com, which will be selling the special releases online.

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What Is the Meaning Behind "420"?
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Whether or not you’re a marijuana enthusiast, you’re probably aware that today is an unofficial holiday for those who are. April 20—4/20—is a day when pot smokers around the world come together to, well, smoke pot. Others use the day to push for legalization, holding marches and rallies.

But why the code 420? There are a lot of theories as to why that particular number was chosen, but most of them are wrong. You may have heard that 420 is police code for possession, or maybe it’s the penal code for marijuana use. Both are false. There is a California Senate Bill 420 that refers to the use of medical marijuana, but the bill was named for the code, not the other way around.

As far as anyone can tell, the phrase started with a bunch of high school students. Back in 1971, a group of kids at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California, got in the habit of meeting at 4:20 to smoke after school. When they’d see each other in the hallways during the day, their shorthand was “420 Louis,” meaning, “Let’s meet at the Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 to smoke.”

Somehow, the phrase caught on—and when the Grateful Dead eventually picked it up, "420" spread through the greater community like wildfire. What began as a silly code passed between classes is now a worldwide event for smokers and legalization activists everywhere—not a bad accomplishment for a bunch of high school stoners.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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